HICKORY, NC (WBTV) - An AMBER alert remains in effect for a 10-year-old Hickory girl who was reported missing Saturday afternoon, and authorities have detained the girl's stepmother on unrelated charges.
Zahra Claire Baker was last seen sleeping at her home on 21st Avenue Northwest around 2:30 a.m. on Saturday. However, police say the girl was not reported missing until several hours later around 2:30 p.m.
"I hope and pray we find her and she'll be okay," said family friend Kayla Rotenberry. She and her fiance, Bobby Green, used to be next door neighbors to the Bakers. Their girls played with each other.
Rotenberry said Zahra has been through a lot in her ten years, and is a tough little girl. She's a cancer survivor and wears a prosthetic leg. Zahra is also hearing impaired. Police say her hearing aids were found in the house.
"I think the cops know more than they are releasing," said Rotenberry.
Sunday, the Hickory Police Department placed Zahra's stepmother, Elisa Baker, under arrest on several outstanding warrants.
She is charged with driving with license revoked, larceny by employee, unsafe tires, six counts of worthless checks, and four counts of communicating threats. She is being held at the Catawba County Jail under a $31,500 bond.
Officials with the HPD said Elisa Baker's account of her stepdaughter's disappearance has been inconsistent, and they have not ruled her out as a suspect in the case.
Police also said the likelihood that Zahra Baker was abducted by a stranger is low.
On Sunday, investigators gathered surveillance video from businesses near the girl's home to establish a better timeline of events leading up to her disappearance. They also spent the day canvassing the area around her home.
HPD Chief Tom Adkins said investigators made a follow-up call to the home after firefighters were dispatched there for a possible brush fire early Saturday morning. Adkins would not say whether the fire had anything to do with the case.
Zahra is about 5'1" tall, weighs about 85 pounds, and has short reddish, blond hair. Zahra was last seen wearing a camouflage army t-shirt and black knee-length tights.
The State Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Marshals Service, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are all assisting the HPD in the search for the girl.
"We are using every available resource we have at our disposal to find Zahra," Adkins said. "We are not giving up hope that Zahra will return home safe and sound."
HPD investigators are working several leads and they are especially trying to find out more about the girl's activities late last week. Investigators plan to interview Zahra's former teachers at schools in Caldwell County.
Family friends say Zahra is currently home-schooled by her step-mother.
The family also moved around a lot. Police are trying to track down recent neighbors.
The Department of Social Services will not confirm or deny that social workers were ever called out to the home.
If you have seen Zahra, call the Hickory Police Department 828-328-5551 or 911.